A most unusual recognition was given to a family at a recent ceremony to present dozens of military service medals to veterans.
Gold Star mother Lisa Marie Brunner of Southampton accepted four posthumous Burlington County Military Service Medals for four veterans from different generations in her family during a ceremony at the Burlington County Library Theater in Westampton – the first in-person county medal event held since the coronavirus pandemic emerged in early 2020.
She accepted the acknowledgments on behalf of her Navy son, Benjamin, who died in 2019 while serving in California aboard the USS Pearl Harbor. She also accepted medals for three Army veterans – her father, maternal grandfather and great-grandfather, all from Burlington County.
“I am proud of the four members of my family who served in the military and thank the county for recognizing them all. I am also proud to be an American Gold Star mother and find peace in serving others, especially our military,” she said. after all four medals were hung around his neck during the ceremony.
Meanwhile, at a similar ceremony in Camden County, another Gold Star mother, Melinda Kane, presented medals in her role as Camden County Commissioner. She awarded Global War on Terror service medals to three veterans.
Two of these three served in both the Vietnam War and Iraq: Robert Morrell of Gloucester City and Thomas Hastings of Gloucester Township.
Medals honoring the service and sacrifices of living and deceased veterans are just one of the programs these two counties and others in New Jersey have in place to recognize and assist county veterans and service members in active service.
Governor Phil Murphy presented Burlington and Camden Counties with the 2021 We Value Our Veterans Community Award.
Through the core values of service to others of the nonprofit organization American Gold Star Mother, Brunner said she found the strength and courage to carry on after her son’s death. The Gold Star title is awarded to mothers who have lost a child serving in the military.
“We are not a club of bereaved mothers to be pitied and pampered, but rather a stronger version of motherhood working to honor the legacy of our sons and daughters through service to others,” she explained. .
“It’s a higher calling than I expected to have to perform in this lifetime, but with each other’s support, we endure and thrive.”
Other medals awarded to Brunner’s family were for his father, John Malone, who served in the DMZ in Korea during the Vietnam War; grandfather Stanley Corliss, a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Division during the Korean War; and great-grandfather George Washkevicz, who served in the cavalry during World War I. None died in battle.
Brunner recently became a member of the Burlington County Military Advisory Committee (BMAC), which serves military personnel stationed at Joint Base Dix-McGuire-Lakehurst. She attends veterans’ funerals and raises flags upon request at select service medal ceremonies, including those aboard the Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial in Camden.
As a member of the Warrior Watch Riders motorcycle group, she also attends surprise welcome parades for service members returning from service overseas and veterans’ birthday celebrations, both of which are often sponsored by the Operation Yellow Ribbon of South Jersey.
“I haven’t been able to play Taps without tears yet,” she said.
Sailor Benjamin “Ben” ‘Brunner was killed in a traffic accident while returning to his ship, where he was working in the engine room as a third-class engineer. “He loved putting grease under his fingernails,” his mother recalled.
Kane lost his son, Marine Lance Cpl. Jeremy Kane, during a battle in Afghanistan in 2010.
“Here I was getting kudos, but I’m downplaying that because his son was killed in Afghanistan. I wish we heard more about KIAs (Killed In Action) like him who made that sacrifice,” Morrell said. , Navy veteran, 70, of Gloucester. City said after receiving his Camden County medals for the two wars he served in.
Morrell, the Oaklyn post chaplain, started an annual 5k run in his hometown of Gloucester City for local hero Marc Ryan, a Marine corporal killed in action in Iraq in 2004, to keep his memory and his living sacrifice.
Kane and Burlington County Commissioner Tom Pullion accepted the governor’s award for their respective counties at the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Holmdel.
Since January, Burlington County has helped county veterans obtain more than $10 million in compensation and benefits, according to county officials. An estimated 30,000 veterans live in the county, more than any other county in the state.
“This is an amazing record and these county employees deserve our thanks and appreciation for the work they do for our veterans every day,” Pullion said.
In November, Burlington County Commissioners also unveiled a new online map detailing veteran-owned businesses in the county.
The map, displayed on the county website in the Burlington County Business Portal, currently lists more than 20 veteran-owned businesses.
Other county programs include maintaining veterans’ graves at more than 96 county cemeteries, placing new flags on those graves ahead of Memorial Day, free photo ID cards for veterans through the county sheriff’s office and free pet adoption for county veterans. animal shelter.
Both counties also offer assistance with Veterans Administration matters, military records, service medals, and burials.
“Receiving this award on behalf of the Camden County Veterans Affairs Office is truly an honor,” Kane said. “The work done by this office is indescribably important and I am proud to be part of a team that provides crucial assistance and resources to these brave men and women.
Carol Comegno loves telling stories about South Jersey life, history and veterans for the Courier Post, Burlington County Times and Daily Journal. If you have a story to share, call her at 856-486-2473 or email [email protected].
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